THE CHAMBER of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU) has expressed its support for the Punjab government’s proposal to set up a 1,000 acres industrial park near the Mattewara forest range, which has been staunchly opposed by green activists.
Upkar Singh Ahuja, president, and Pankaj Sharma, general secretary, CICU, in a joint statement said, “If we want India to be self-sufficient (Atma Nirbhar), a 5 trillion economy, we have to enhance manufacturing. Take the example of Taiwan, it is almost double the size of Punjab with a GDP of 3.70 billion and ranked 7th in Asia and 21st in the world. Industrial base is very low in Punjab, it’s an opportunity when countries like Japan are realigning their manufacturing base. If Punjab misses the bus, it will never get the opportunity again.”
“Punjab is not able to attract investments in the automobile sector. Moreover, Ludhiana is a hub for textiles and garments, Despite that, no international manufacturers were able to set up their base in Punjab,” they added.
Upkar Singh said, “Land price in Ludhiana district is between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore in an industrial zone, whereas in Gujarat, where the port is very close and logistics cost is low, land is available at approximately Rs 15 lakh per acre.
CICU members said, “There are approximately 2.5 lakh industrial units in Punjab. Availability of land for industry at competitive price is one of the hurdles because of which industry cannot grow in Punjab.”
“The Punjab State Industrial & Export Corporation (PSIEC) was set up to provide land at reasonable price to industry, but it is working as a real estate company working to make huge profit from land. Take the example of Dhanansu Focal Point, where 300 acres’ land was acquired for Rs 94 crore. This comes out to approximately 31.33 lakh per acres or only Rs 647 per sq. yard, whereas PSIEC is planning to sell it at 5,000 per sq. yard, 8 times the land value. Other countries like Thailand, Vietnam offer reasonable prices to factories to attract investors,” said Upkar Singh.
The CICU executive committee unanimously recommended setting up of a modern industrial park at Mattewara. This land does not belong to the forest, they claimed.
The CICU members said that there is huge unemployment in Punjab. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data shows a 33.6 per cent unemployment rate in May in Punjab. “One option was to go abroad. This opportunity is no longer available due to Covid-19,” members said. Hence, the committee unanimously recommended setting up the industrial park at Mattewara and requested the government to provide land at reasonable prices to the industry.
The CICU has even written to the chief minister, industry and finance ministers to use panchayats land and other additional land available for setting up industry. Dhanansu hi-tech valley is a good model of converting panchayat land for industrial activities, they said, adding that it changed the face of the village because the panchayat developed the village using the interest amount from the fixed deposit. All lanes were paved, free Wi-Fi was installed for villagers, anganwadi school was developed and many development projects are in the pipeline they said.
Green activists plan next move
At a meeting in held in Ludhiana’s Ramgarhia Girls College on Saturday, organised by industrialist Ranjodh Singh, MD of automobile company GS Auto, the following proposals were discussed:
* To form an action committee with members from all NGOs are opposed to the park proposal. To write to the chief minister, National Green Tribunal, forest department etc.
* To visit the area and discuss the issue with villagers of the area. A number of persons had also visited the area on Sunday afternoon.
* To ensure that wildlife and ecology of forest are not disturbed. It was asserted that villages like Haider Nagar, Sekhewal and Macchian Kalan which are part of this industrial park are having a boundary wall adjoining forest. NGO ‘Sath’ also started a plantation drive from Sekhewal village and said villagers will be made aware of after-effects if the park comes up.
* Politicians like AAP MLA Sarabjeet Kaur Manuke, independent MLA Simarjeet Bains have also visited the area and have called the project “ill-conceived”.
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